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A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy Hardcover – 15 Jan 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books; UNKNOWN edition (15 Jan. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846681782
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846681783
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.7 x 20.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 243,956 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


There is a contrast between the horrors Buergenthal recounts and the positive tone of his memoir. He has waited more than 50 years to write A Lucky Child, and it is the detachment of distance, coupled with the author's gracious spirit, that steers the prose away from self-pity or anger ... It is what makes this memoir so rewarding: in the darkness, the indomitable spirit of the child (Genevieve Fox Telegraph 2009-01-10)

An understated and quietly powerful memoir ... not one to miss (Libby Purves Radio 4 Midweek)

Passionate and objective (Harry McGrath Sunday Herald 2009-01-18)

As understated and optimistic as it is harrowing (Christopher Hart Sunday Times 2009-01-18)

A tour de force: simply narrated, at times almost naïve - and even more shocking as a result (Camilla Long Sunday Times News Review 2009-01-18)

Thomas Buergenthal is not your average misery memoirist ... What he has to say, both in bearing witness to the Holocaust and in describing his moral coming-to-adulthood, deserves our attention. He has serious things to tell us about forgiveness, justice and the curious effect of deep trauma on the mind ... Buergenthal largely steers away from emotional theatrics ... his is an extraordinary story and he tells it straight ... A quietly courageous undertow to this story is Buergenthal's willingness to look this fact in the face: he doesn't flatter himself he was singled out by God, or destiny, to survive. Only chance separated him from the six million - and accepting that seems to underpin his humane understanding of the world (Sam Leith Daily Mail 2009-01-23)

Extraordinary and moving ... His memoir is a shining light in the darkness of history ... and a tribute to the irrepressible spirit and optimism of childhood. A book that just has to be read (Pam Norfolk Lancashire Evening Post 2009-01-21)

In the plainest words and the steadiest tones (as an intimate would speak deadly truth in the dead of night), Thomas Buergenthal delivers to us the child he once was: an unblemished little boy made human prey by Europe's indelible twentieth-century barbarism, a criminality that will never leave off its telling. History and memory fail to ebb; rather, they accelerate and proliferate, and Buergenthals voice is now more thunderous than ever. Pledged to universal human rights, he has turned a life of gratuitous deliverance into a work of visionary compassion. (Cynthia Ozick)

An extraordinary and inspiring book by an extraordinary and inspiring man. It's one of those rare books you devour cover to cover in a single reading. It deserves to be read very widely indeed, especially for anyone desperate for a hint of light in a world that can often seem so very dark. (Professor Philippe Sands QC)

It's a unique, almost magical story - the little boy is like a Kobold or goblin - or some wily younger son in a story by the Brothers Grimm. He survives by a mixture of cunning and sheer dumb luck - he experiences utter horror, but also extraordinary kindness and compassion. This book is also about the getting of wisdom, and young Tommy's determination not to let his dreadful experiences crush his essential humanity. (Kate Saunders)

Wonderful (Phil Bloomfield Oxford Times)

A painfully honest work (Steve Andrew Morning Star 2009-03-01)

Thomas Buergenthal is now a distinguished judge at the International Court in The Hague ... This book tells his remarkable story ... and what the world can learn from this modest, talented and inspiring man. (Good Book Guide)

A deeply moving story ... a vivid juxtaposition of matter-of-fact details of the life of a young child and the ultimate horror of a death camp. (Juliet Gardiner History Today)

Book Description

Thomas Buergenthal is unique. He is a judge at the International Court in The Hague who was rescued from the death camps of Auschwitz at the age of eleven. In his funny and heartfelt memoirs, he tells the story of his extraordinary journey - from the horrors of Nazism to an investigation of modern day genocide.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Ingrid Enquist on 22 Feb. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This amazing and inspiring book is a fine example of choosing one's moment. Whereas some Holocaust survivors wrote their accounts shortly after their ordeal, Thomas Buergenthal waited more than 60 years after the passage of time had blunted his anger and the horrors he had witnessed and experienced. The result is a balanced and enthralling account of a child using all his means to surive the Holocaust.

Thomas, together with his parents, had been on the run from the Nazis since the age of four. He was interned in Auschwitz at the age of 10. During those years he experienced things that no human being should have to experience and especially not a child.

Through his intelligence and resourcefulness, Thomas' father Mundek kept the family together; he shrewdly anticipated when they should flee and how they could best survive. Later during his internment Thomas, was also intelligent and resourceful in his ongoing quest for survival.

In Auschwitz, Thomas' father learned from a friend that a job for Thomas could provide some protection for him. Thomas then became an errand boy, delivering messages and packages for those running the camp. In this way he often happened upon useful information and could go to many places around the camp where others could not.

Yet, Thomas was a lucky child. Many times he missed the dreaded selections either for the gas chamber or becoming one of Dr. Mengele's objects for experimentation. There were also acts of great kindness to him from others, especially from a Norwegian internee .

A particularly moving moment is when he recalls how he briefly saw his mother in the womens' camp and how he repeated their exchange and the picture of her over and over in his mind in the days to come.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mr. N. B. Hodson on 29 Mar. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is such a brilliant book, I had immediately afterwards to get Odd Nansen's epitome "Day after Day" (a second hand copy was available on the internet) which mentioned his meeting at the camp "hospital" with "Tommy". How the child ever escaped the Nazis death proposals at Aushwitz, I'll never grasp - but he did and became an international lawyer, to boot! It is a book that is simple to read (as no lawyer's Brief is) and is beautifully set up: I will refrain explaining his narrative to avoid the sorrow that the book involves: suffice it to say that his terrible and deadly experience stood him wonderfully well in his eventual profession - it is a pity that most if not all other Judges do not have that colour (black through all to white) life left him with.
Do read it.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Oldandgrey on 15 Mar. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Unlike Primo Levi's brilliant book, 'If This Is A Man', which was written through the eyes of an adult, this is a fascinating book written through a child's eyes, but the simplicity of his narrative brings you closer to the reality of The Holocaust than many adults who went through the same experience. There are many sad moments in the book, but also many times when you want to smile or jump with joy along with Thomas as he recalls such gems as being a 'soldier' in the Polish army, firing the only round in a rusty pistol and being re-united with his dear 'Mutti'. Also, he reveals the heroism of many around him and the love they gave to him which helped him through his terrible ordeal. At times, I shed a few tears for them as well as for Thomas. One of the things I found most poignent about this book were the numerous photographs that helped me relate to Thomas and his family and friends. I will be visiting Aushwitz/Birkenhau (for the second time) in May 2009 and I will take the book with me as a tribute to Thomas and for his many relatives and friends who were not 'A Lucky Child'. The title is a paradox, but an understandable one when you have read this brilliant book. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about this awful moment in the history of mankind.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By H. NORTH on 24 May 2010
Format: Paperback
The title of this book will become clearer the more that you read, at every turn of his holocaust experience Thomas manages to survive when it seems almost impossible. You will question how much this was down to his own initative and how much is down to pure luck.
Thomas manages to tell his story with two voices, that of the child he was and that of the adult he now is looking back on what was really going on.
As with any Holocaust biography, there are many scenes that are horrific, but this just makes it all the more important that these stories are heard.
You will cry and you will cheer as you experience this boys amazing fight for survival.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alan Wingrove on 2 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback
Never before in my 53 years have I started to read a book and not been able to put it down until I finished it - but this book changed that. It was a spontaneous purchase and I started reading Thomas Buergenthal's memoirs on a Saturday morning, only intending to read the first chapter or two. Instead, I put the book down in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The factual, objective and easy to read style of Buergenthal's writing belies the horrors that he witnessed and lived through. This is a true story - and one that no novelist could make up. The way that this man used his experiences as a foundation for his future success is an inspiration to the entire human race.
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